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Analysis: Race For Virginia Governor Shifts As Warner Sticks To Senate

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Senator Mark Warner says he will not run for Governor of Virginia in the 2013 election. Warner had indicated that he was considering a run, but after much speculation, he announced today that he will continue his work in the Senate instead.

"I hope my value-add in Congress is to continue working hard every day, to not simply blame the other side, but to actually try to find common ground," says Sen. Warner.

Fellow Democrat Terry McAuliffe has already signaled his intention to run. Meanwhile, Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling are vying for the Republican nomination. Alex Bolton, senior staff writer for The Hill newspaper, offers some analysis.

What appears to be behind Warner's decision not to run?

"It's a sense that he has work remaining in the Senate — that there's an incomplete job that he signed up for and he would like to see through. He says that when he ran for Senator almost four years ago, he made a promise to come to Washington to be a problem solver. He admitted in a statement today that it's been tougher than he expected, but he's tried to keep at it. He said that what he's been trying to do is bipartisan work to fix the debt and deficit. He referred specifically to his work on the "Gang of Six," which is an informal group of legislators that he's convened with Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), and their work could be coming to the fore right now as Congressional leaders try to come to a deal on deficit reduction."

Where does this leave the Democratic party moving toward the election?

"It makes Terry McAuliffe the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and that leaves some Democrats feeling nervous. McAuliffe did not do well in the 2009 Democratic Primary, when he lost by a big margin to the eventual nominee Cray Deebs, who went on to lose against Republican Bob McDonnell. So there's some question as to how strong a candidate McAuliffe really is, but with Warner out of the race, McAuliffe is the frontrunner, even though his approval rating is nowhere near what Warner's is."

Virginia has established itself as a true swing state. What dynamics do you expect to see in the general election?

"Virginia is one of the few states with a gubernatorial election on the off-year, the other being New Jersey, and what you usually see is that the President's party typically doesn't do so well in these off elections. There's almost a changing of the tide or a mini backlash against the Presidential election that went before. A Republican won after Obama was elected; after Bush was reelected, a Democrat won. So this could bode well for a Republican candidate."

"However, Democrats are making some gains in Virginia. Obama, despite some predictions that he would lose Virginia this time around, won it by a fairly comfortable margin. And Tim Kaine won the Senate race against George Allen. So the Democrats on a roll on Virginia."

What are Warner's priorities moving forward?

"Certainly the fiscal cliff and deficit reduction is priority number one, but he said that even if Congress reaches a deal to reduce the deficit and avoid an increase in taxes across the board, he's going to focus on immigration reform, improvements to education, and he said the country still needs a 21st century energy plan. So that's what he's going to be focusing on."

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